Valve repair or replacement surgery is done to treat heart valves disease. As with any surgery, there will be some risks involved, depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
Preparing for a heart valve repair / replacement surgery
You will be asked to fast before the surgery. Your surgeon needs to be aware of all your past medical history, allergies and all the medications you are taking. If you smoke, you should aim to quit smoking for at least 8 weeks before your surgery.
During a heart valve repair / replacement surgery
Heart valve repair / replacement surgery is performed under anaesthesia and requires the use of a heart-lung bypass machine to keep the blood moving.
The recommended procedure may be minimally-invasive, requiring only small incisions through which surgical instruments can be inserted, or involve open heart surgery which requires cutting the chest open, through the breastbone.
Minimally-invasive procedures usually mean a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery time.
Heart valve repair surgery may be performed to:
- patch holes in a valve
- reconnect valve flaps
- remove excess valve tissue
- separate fused valve flaps
- replace cords that support the valve
- tighten or reinforce the ring around the valve
In a heart valve replacement surgery, the faulty or damaged valve is replaced with:
- a mechanical valve, which will require the life-long use of blood-thinning medications to prevent blood clots
- a biological valve, made from animal or human heart tissue, which will eventually need to be replaced
After a heart valve repair / replacement surgery
Post-surgery, you will spend some time in the intensive care unit (ICU) for observation, to keep watch for signs of infection and monitor your heart activity, blood pressure and breathing. Fluids and medications will be administered intravenously. Tubes will drain urine from your bladder and fluids from your chest.
Before your discharge, you will be advised on proper care of the incisions, monitoring for infection, pain relief and managing medications.
Recovery period for a heart valve repair / replacement surgery
Recovering from valve surgery usually takes between 4 and 8 weeks. If you had a minimally invasive surgery, recover may be shorter. Follow up appointments will be required so your doctor can monitor your recovery and advise when you can return to your daily activities.